Yes it is a welcome return. Darn it, I’ve gone and ruined the surprise — but those in the know would not have been for it is still plain to see that this is a brilliant little car with a huge personality — and more pertinently, space. The interior has oceans of room which shouldn’t be possible because the little Honda has such a small footprint. Forget whatever they taught you in physics because it won’t apply here; somehow, the cabin appears to be larger than the car itself! Most new cars are bigger and have more room for passengers these days, but those who haven’t sat in the Jazz will be pleasantly surprised when they do.
It’s been missing from our roads (and very likely our consciousness — it’s all about SUVs now...) for a few years and this third generation model was actually launched back in 2014 however it is only this year that it is making its entrance in the GCC market. It brings with it a refreshed exterior, some new technology and some very clever features too.
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Starting with the exterior which has been roughly the same since the car’s 2002 debut and is still instantly recognisable, it now incorporates a sportier, lower and wider look and sure exudes a bold confidence. There’s a new front fascia with the Honda signature solid wing face grille which is flanked by two large headlights below which resides a front bumper that is so sharply sculpted that you might be tempted to put it on the ironing board. There are more aggressive lines around the halogen headlights and although the face has grown up, the eyes still have a cheeky glint which hints at its playful nature. The profile has a deep character line which stretches from the front doors to the refreshed chunky, stacked rear lights and it rides on diamond-cut 16in alloys and they fill the wheel wells nicely but it is the cabin which provides best-in-class space that really impresses.
Mounting a lower-profile fuel tank in the centre was a smart move as this has freed up lots of underfloor space beneath the rear seats — and this is where the fun begins. If you haven’t heard of Honda’s innovative Magic Seats system you don’t know what you’re missing; basically you can flip and fold them to make them disappear in one swift move or create several configurations and accommodate almost anything in there. For instance, in Utility Mode the rear seatback folds forward which doesn’t sound like anything special but when the seat base lowers into the rear passenger footwell to make space for numerous cargo sizes your eyes will surely widen. They’ll be on the verge of popping right out with Tall Mode activated. This one raises the front of the rear seat base and locks in a vertical position allowing you to place tall objects behind the front seats. It gets better; in Long Mode the front passenger seatback folds back to a horizontal position while the rear seatback folds forward to make a ‘tunnel’ that can help accommodate long items but my favourite of the lot is Refresh Mode. Ever wished you could put your feet up in your car while someone else drives? Well you can with this mode as the front seat back reclines to a flat position to meet the base of the rear seat. This creates a bed and allows you to sit in the back and rest your legs over the front seat.
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Moving on to the tech side of things, this EX trim (it’s the only trim being offered) features a new 7.0in colour Display Audio touchscreen (with swipe and touch functionality) Steering Wheel Mounted Controls that allow you to control the volume of the radio and paddle shifters so you can take control of upshifts or downshifts of the transmission which, sadly, happens to be a CVT. You also get keyless entry, cruise control, rear parking sensors, a four-speaker sound system, two USB ports and a HDMI port. As for safety, it offers ABS (with EBD), hill-start assist, Isofix latches, and two airbags.
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It’s powered by a 1.5-litre motor that makes 130 horses and it proves decent enough; with 155Nm of torque on tap it has enough get up and go to not make merging with faster moving traffic a white knuckle affair. Indeed the Direct Injection DOHC i-VTEC engine is good and the Jazz sure doesn’t feel like it needs more power — but it is mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission which more than anything is just annoying. Sure, it helps to achieve the best in the segment fuel economy
(a claimed 5.0 litres per 100km; I only managed 9 litres per 100km — but I only drive with my foot floored...) but it forces the motor to rev so hard it sounds like it wants to explode. Peak output arrives at an ear-splitting 6,600rpm — you might want to hold off any overtaking manoeuvres, not that it can’t handle them. Its ability to reach 100kph from rest in 10.3 seconds isn’t bad in this class either. Remember, it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow and with its taut chassis and chuckable nature (it only leans in the corners when you’re being really heavy handed otherwise while cruising it doesn’t come across as floaty), the Jazz proves quite endearing. The electric power steering lacks a bit of feedback but on the plus side it is quick and well-weighted.
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It’s practical and good to drive but at Dh63,900 you’re getting very close to Civic money. Now only time will tell whether or not the Jazz will go on to become a sales success but for right now, it is just nice to have this little guy back in town.